CONCORD -- Preparing students to meet California's 21st century workforce needs consumed the Contra Costa Economic Partnership's 2013 East Bay Business/Education Leadership Summit.
"It is not as important for business partners to understand how we are doing it," said Concord High School teacher Tom Towbridge, "But it is (most important) to the conversation to have an idea of what they are looking for so we can provide it."
Although the state leads the nation in creating new private sector jobs, adding 257,600 between December 2011 and December 2012, and a total of 556,500 since the recovery began in 2010, according to the California Employment Development Department, employers must look outside the state and too often the country for workers with the necessary skills to compete in the global economy.
"The reality is business has a vested interest in our students," said April Treece, director STEM Workforce Initiative, Contra Costa Economic Partnership. "Sometimes industry doesn't see that in our changing economy businesses are going to suffer if education isn't aligned (with their needs.)"
The Contra Costa Economic Partnership is a coalition of business, government and education leaders. Since about 2007 the CCEP has brought educators and business leaders as well as government together every year to partner in assuring that schools understand and are helping students meet the skills needed to enter and compete in the changing global
Sponsors of the Feb. 27 event included industry leaders dedicated to partnering with educators: Chevron, San Pablo Economic Development Corporation, East Bay EDA, Contra Costa Council and Innovation Tri-Valley.
Both morning and afternoon discussions acknowledged that after years of raising students' scores on state-mandated tests, data showed those higher scores didn't translate to needed skills for getting jobs.
There is a "disconnect" between what is being taught and what the 21st century job market is demanding. That is the loud message industry and educators are trying to address.
The most successful programs are those developed to meet the 2006 federal law known as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. These program objectives provide students with the academic and technical skills to succeed in various careers.
For at least 10 years, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District has partnered with industry to offer its students this industry-linked form of education through its "academies."
Of the MDUSD schools offering them, Mt. Diablo High School boasts six academies serving a diverse range of industries to prepare students for the many and varied jobs within those sectors, including information technology, biotechnology, and the hospitality industry.
"Industry partners are crucial to the functioning of academies," said Carol Mishler, a teacher in the Mt. Diablo High School Biotech Academy.
"They (industry leaders) are in control of the workforce that is coming to them in the future," said Sandy Johnson-Shaw, also a teacher in Mt. Diablo High School's Biotech Academy.
The two teachers applauded John Muir Medical Center for being a major partner with the school, but Johnson-Shaw said all businesses need to step up as partners whether they are a large corporation or a small business, as they are vital to creating a competitive workforce.
Johnson-Shaw said students need on-the-job-training that can be offered by internships or a first entry-level position. She said the academies turn out well-mannered, well-dressed, well-educated students who lack only the real-life work experience, which businesses can provide.
This year, at least 250 people -- a third representing businesses and two-thirds representing educators -- gathered at the event to hear two keynote speakers, Willard R. Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, and Kish Rajan, Gov. Jerry Brown's appointee as the GO-Biz director.
GO-Biz is part of the California Business and Economic Department created as a single-point contact for economic development and job creation.
Daggett urged educators to embrace new technology, saying their refusal to do so is, and will further cripple the ability to educate today's students.
He lauded the gaming industry for its research into what makes the learning part of the brain tick, and he advised the schools to use what they had learned and invite them to the table.
He also said in response to a question that California's greatest challenge to education was holding the special interest groups at bay.
"California has more special interest groups putting pressure on education than any other state," Daggett said.
After encouraging business and educators to continue to work in unison, and saying his office is available to help with committed resources, Rajan used the podium to tell Texas Gov. Rick Perry that people like Larry Ellis and others build their businesses here "not because it is hard or not, but because they want to be part of something."
He added that some of the cumbersome regulations need to be more streamlined, but protecting the environment and the quality of life is part of what being in California is all about.
"If it's too hard, maybe not all should apply. When you are ready for California, we are ready for you," Rajan said.